Members of Congress funded Md. race Colleagues helped Gilchrest, McMillen


WASHINGTON -- Other members of Congress donated thousands of dollars to Reps. Tom McMillen and Wayne T. Gilchrest during the final weeks of their hotly contested battle for the 1st Congressional District seat last month, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Mr. McMillen, who lost the incumbent-vs.-incumbent race, collected the most donations from his Democratic colleagues -- $6,250 in the last week of the campaign. Mr. Gilchrest picked up $4,000 from fellow GOP representatives, the records show.

Members of Congress can give up to $1,000 from their campaign committees to a colleague, the same limit that applies to donations from individuals. However, reform groups have criticized the practice because it takes money donated for one candidate and gives it to another.

Among Mr. McMillen's 10 donations from House Democrats was $1,000 from the campaign committee of Rep. John D. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, who is chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee on which Mr. McMillen served.

Another $500 donation came from the campaign of Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II of Massachusetts, son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

Mr. Gilchrest collected checks from the campaigns of five House colleagues, including a $1,000 donation from Fred Grandy for Congress, the campaign committee of the Iowa lawmaker. Mr. Gilchrest also picked up $1,000 from Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, a member of the GOP leadership.

Members giving to members is an age-old tradition on Capitol Hill. Every two years, lawmakers are inundated with requests from their colleagues for campaign checks.

"I must have gotten 40 to 50 requests from my colleagues," said Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Baltimore Democrat.

Mr. Cardin wound up donating $3,000 from his campaign coffers to six Democratic House colleagues, all in $500 checks. Another $1,000 from his campaign was donated to Barbara Boxer, a Democratic House member from California who won a Senate seat.

Mr. McMillen could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Mr. Gilchrest said he did not make a pitch for his donations. "I didn't go out and solicit these guys, it kind of goes against my grain," said Mr. Gilchrest, saying the money came from colleagues who knew he was in a tough race.

But the Eastern Shore Republican acknowledged that part of the reason for giving is that members are seeking support from their colleagues for leadership posts. Both Mr. Grandy and another Gilchrest backer, Rep. Alex McMillan of North Carolina -- who gave $1,000 -- considered running for spots on the Committee on Committees, the GOP group that makes committee assignments. However, both eventually withdrew.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, has been a generous giver to his colleagues in the past, partly to gain support for his caucus post, No. 4 in the House Democratic hierarchy. This year, however, he had no opposition for the leadership position.

He made only two donations from his campaign committee -- both on Nov. 17, two weeks after the election. One was a $500 donation to Rep.-elect Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, and a $1,000 check to Sen. Wyche Fowler of Georgia, who lost his seat in a Nov. 24 runoff.

The campaign committee of Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Baltimore Democrat and newly elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, made one donation in the final weeks of the campaign, a $500 check to Sanford Bishop, a black Democrat who won a Georgia congressional seat.

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